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April 13, 2017

Lent 2017: Day Thirty-Eight

Week Six: It’s the End of the Church As We Know It

Reflection for the Week: How can I develop courage to cast a vision for a new church?

Author Maxie Dunnam tells the story of the First United Methodist Church of Dallas which during one Lenten season erected a huge crude wooden cross in front of the church. The church was situated directly across the street from the Dallas Museum of Art and the cross apparently disturbed a number of community folk. One caller bothered by the contrast between the loveliness of the museum and the crude, even ugly, cross on the front of the church called in and said, “Can’t you do something about that dreadful cross?”

I would venture to guess that most every Christian at one time or another in their faith journey has wished in their heart of hearts, “Can’t they do something about that dreadful cross.” In fact over the years we have done just that. We have adorned the cross with gold and jewels for processions in beautiful sanctuaries and Cathedrals. We have turned it into a piece of accent jewelry to hang around the neck, or wear on our lapel. Gone are the splinters, the nail holes and the blood.

But the cross of Christ is dreadful. It was a tool of torture, ridicule and death. It was a sign of suffering for those who did wrong in the Roman Empire. It was a sign of the ultimate power of the Roman Empire in the lives of the people. The cross was the place where human sin and wrong met its end. Christ’s death on the cross redefined human sin and wrote a new ending to our life story. Unwilling to selfishly seek his own life, faithful to God’s message of loving sacrifice as the path to salvation, Christ’s blood on that cross washed away the despair it used to symbolize and resurrected it as a symbol of God’s ultimate power — life giving love. When Rome’s power reached its peak in the execution of Christ, God’s resurrection power was just beginning. When we look at the cross we should remember that “dreadful” day of God’s loving sacrifice in Christ, and we should pause and feel the enormity of the cost. Then, in faith we must move from grief for his suffering and death, to gratitude for his life giving sacrifice.

There can be no denial in how challenging it is to live faithfully in a world still selfish and sinful. There are high costs to those who claim to live in Christ. To avoid the dreadful is sometimes to risk missing the divine.

Prayer:  Lord, thy will be done, not mine. Amen.

Rev. John Farley
Dean of Cabinet
California-Pacific Conference